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Protesters blockade Armenia’s Parliament as army chief dismissed

10 March 2021
Protesters blockade the Armenian Parliament. Photo: Ani Avetisyan/OC Media.

Protesters have erected tents in front of the entrances to the Parliament building as the political crisis continues in Armenia.

The move on Tuesday followed a call by opposition candidate for Prime Minister Vazgen Manukyan. Protest leaders said they planned to stay there until the MPs supported the opposition in removing Prime Minister Nikol Pashinyan from office. 

Manukyan said that a solution to the crisis would emerge in the coming days.

Vazgen Manukyan at 9 March’s protest. Photo: Ani Avetisyan/OC Media.

The protests are a continuation of months of turmoil in Armenia following the country’s defeat in the war in Nagorno-Karabakh, with opposition parties calling on Pashinyan to resign.

The coordinator of the homeland Salvation Movement, Ishkhan Saghatelyan, stated on Tuesday that they had no intention of storming the building, but would stop MPs from entering Parliament as ‘they have nothing to do there’.

Police officers did not attempt to disperse the crowd but the situation in Yerevan remains tense.

A strong police presence in Yerevan on 10 March. Photo: Ani Avetisyan/OC Media.
Photo: Ani Avetisyan/OC Media.

Several thousand protesters have kept a section of Baghramyan Avenue, where parliament is located, closed since 25 February, when the army brass issued a statement calling for the PM’s resignation.

Army chief removed

On Wednesday, the government announced that the dismissal of the Chief of the General Staff of the Armenian Armed Forces, Onik Gasparyan, had come into force.

This came almost two weeks after Pashinyan signed the decree firing him, accusing the military of a ‘coup attempt’. 

Onik Gasparyan.

Gasparyan responded to the statement, claiming that ‘both the published statement and the whole process of dismissal are unconstitutional’. 

The decree to dismiss Gasparyan was earlier sent to President Armen Sarkissian. However, Sarkissian refused to sign it but took no action to prevent it from coming into force automatically. 

Sarkissian did, however, appeal to the Constitutional court to assess if the law allowing Pashinyan to dismiss the army head was constitutional.

Armenia’s top military officers called for Pashinyan resignation in late February after Pashinyan fired the deputy chief of the General Staff, Tiran Khachatryan. Both Gasparyan and Khachatryan applied to the Administrative Court and are waiting for the decision.

‘I am sure of one thing that the army will not retreat, it is not a matter of one person here, it is not Onik Gasparyan’s personal issue’, Vazgen Manukyan said, adding that a solution to the crisis would emerge in the coming days.

Manukyan referred to the president’s decision not to block Gasparyan’s dismissal stating that ‘we have no president, we have a rich tourist’.

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